Reviews: The Black Mage GN & Jonesy: Nine Lives on the Nostromo HC
The Black Mage GN
Black Mage is mixture of Harry Potter YA fantasy, some Final Fantasy-ish magic, a little infusion of manga battle comics, and a healthy dose of on the nose social commentary. And when I say on the nose, I mean the school is just straight up run by the KKK as all of their wizard cloaks are just Klan hoods.
Young Tom Token and his crow familiar Jim (ON.THE.NOSE) are accepted into the floating St. Ivory Academy spellcaster school as part of a Magical Minority Initiative. As the first black student at the school, Tom has to immediately deal with an overbearing amount of racism, sometimes taking the form of inappropriately ignorant questions such as, "Is it true that black mages actually use grape juice to replenish their magic, instead of potions?". That's on the mild side compared to the more blatant bullying from white preppy kids with names like Bryce, so Tom is pretty much in a constant mood of being done with the entire situation. As Tom deals with all that crap, there's also a mystery involving missing black students from the past, civil war era ghosts, and an obvious conspiracy under the leadership of the headmaster Atticus Lynch.
While action packed and cleanly illustrated with a fun art style, the overall storytelling is very bare bones in regard to character and plot development. As the book is a super quick read, it's very difficult for any sense of mystery or suspense to flourish. All of the Harry Potterish trials and tribulations are as rushed and executed as the plot, and most of the revelations of the book are painfully telegraphed. As the lack of nuance and subtle character developments detracts from stronger world building, we're given the impression that this is very much a vehicle for a concept. That in itself isn't necessarily a bad thing, but in combination with all the other detriments then the whole package unfortunately feels like a missed opportunity.
This book has the kind of concept I want to see meticulously fleshed out, and while I can appreciate the bluntness of their approach I would also like to see some finer cuts about the lack of representation in fantasy fiction. However, I think it might be unfair to saddle those hopes on this book as it feels like it's aimed more towards ages 10 and up. With that context I would say this can be a good option to include when discussing issues of race and discrimination with younger readers as you're starting to heap on more intensive material as you progress.
Jonesy: Nine Lives on the Nostromo
There isn't really a hard pitch to sell this book, it's seriously just a silent comic following Ripley's cat in the background of Alien. Watch as cat plays. Watch as cat sleeps. Watch as cat chases a chestburster. That's it. And honestly, it's perfect because of that. Still it's a little evil as Titan Books knew they could charge $15 for a tiny 80 page HC simply because.....cat.
I'm a fan of silent comics as it's a great artist flex to showcase their visual narrative skills, and Rory Lucey's clean and expressive style fully delivers. It's a cute mix of whimsical and meandering which compliments (oddly enough) the horror of the familiar background events that are occurring. There was actually kind of a creepy moment of horror for me as well as there's a sequence where Jonesy is sleeping near a window on a lower deck and small bits of acid drop inches away from him. Something about the framing of the page and how unaffected Jonesy is about everything hit just right, reinforcing how much I really appreciate Lucey's storytelling.
If you're looking for a quick gift for someone, or your a big Alien fan, or especially if you're just a cat person then this is worth the cash to include in your collection.